February is Black History Month! The month serves as a way to raise awareness and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans.
Optimum honors those who have helped pave the way for progress and change. To conclude the month, we are recognizing a few remarkable Black doctors. Additionally, we invite you to share the healthcare professionals from history that inspire you!
Dr. James McCune Smith
Dr. James McCune Smith was the first Black American in the United States to receive a medical degree. Dr. Smith was turned away by American universities but persevered and was finally accepted at a medical school in Scotland. After graduation, he returned to the United States and opened a medical practice in New York City.
Dr. Smith was the first Black American published in U.S. medical journals. In addition, he was actively involved in anti-slavery and suffrage movements. Dr. Smith was instrumental in making the overthrow of slavery a success. He faced many barriers during his career, but today, he is celebrated as a symbol of strength and determination.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African American female doctor in the United States. She attended the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts, and was the only Black graduate. Dr. Crumpler was passionate about her work and treated patients regardless of whether they could pay.
Dr. Crumpler published a book that incorporated medical notes from journals she had while practicing. A Book of Medical Discourses is said to be the first medical book written by an African American author. Virginia’s governor declared March 30, 2019, “Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler Day” to celebrate her perseverance and dedication to those in need of her care.
Dr. Leonidas Harris Berry
Dr. Leonidas Harris Berry was the first Black gastroenterologist and a pioneer in endoscopy. He led groundbreaking studies, invented the Eder-Berry biopsy gastroscope, encouraged African American youths to pursue a medical career, and more.
Dr. Berry set off to receive many awards and was always very actively involved in the community. The Leonidas H. Berry Society for Digestive Diseases was established in 1980. This was in recognition of Dr. Berry’s groundbreaking contributions to gastroenterology.
Black Americans Continue to Excel in Healthcare.
Today, Black doctors are advancing every aspect of medicine and healthcare in the U.S. A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found that the number of Black American first-year medical students increased by 21 percent between 2020 and 2021.
Revisiting the stories of trailblazers like Smith, Crumpler, and Berry can be inspiring. It encourages us to pursue our passions and strive for equity throughout healthcare.